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What Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams said after the 86-51 loss at No. 5 Tennessee

IMG_3593by:Grant Ramey02/24/24


Tennessee Dominates Texas A&m, Rick Barnes Talks After His 800th Win

Everything Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams said after the Aggies lost 86-51 to No. 5 Tennessee Saturday night at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville:

Tennessee closing the first half on a run after the game was tied 24-24 with four minutes left in the half

“I thought we did OK, the first 16 minutes. I thought we were connected. I thought we competed. In many respects, probably the best 16-minute stretch we’ve had since the last time we played (Tennessee) two weeks ago. I think it was 12 or 13 seconds left, deep sideline out. When (Santiago Vescovi) hit the three, we tried to change up what we were doing defensively. Obviously it didn’t work. I didn’t think — we count turkeys, three stops in a row — we did a good job in the first half. We got zero (turkeys) in the second half. I thought the second half was a completely different story in every possible way. (Tennessee is) really good. They’re really good here. And everything they were good at, we did not cause any problems, particularly in the second half.”

How effective Tennessee point guard Zakai Zeigler was with nine points, nine rebounds, 14 assists and four steals

“I think he is so underrated. Elite on-the-ball defender. Incredibly fast with or without the ball. Then I think their transition, secondary action, he is the engine. When it gets into a half court situation, I thought (Jonas Aidoo) was really good tonight. (Dalton Knecht) causes a lot of problems for everybody. But I actually think that (Zeigler) in many respects coordinates all of that. … I think (Santiago Vescovi) as a secondary ball handler with what he has done in his career here, to some degree, you have to pick your position. But (Zeigler) commands so much attention that sometimes I think he is maybe unheralded in regards to he is a conduit to so many things they do.” 

If Tennessee did anything differently after Wade Taylor IV hit three straight 3-pointers early in the game

“Well, I think we probably shot too many threes for us across the game. The spurt for sure helped us, but we probably, not just (Taylor), we probably stayed on that a little bit too much. We are reliant on offensive rebounds. We’re reliant on getting fouled. And sometimes if you take too many threes, not that we’re great at shooting them, but if we shoot too many, we’re probably not going have as good of a chance to offensive rebound. I think tonight was the worst that we had been in that regard in SEC play and similar from the free-throw line. We need to get fouled. We need to make a higher percentage of our shots at the free-throw line when we do get fouled. But some of that is interconnected in that if we’re at the free-throw line, we can have a little bit of front-court pressure. We probably settled too often for threes. That led to no offensive rebounds, no fouls for Texas A&M, but led to ultra fast points in transition off one or zero passes by Tennessee.”

Tennessee playing Jonas Aidoo and Tobe Awaka together more than the Vols did at College Station

“I think they probably played those two guys more versus Missouri than any other game thus far this season. You would have to look at the numbers. I’m pretty sure that (Awaka) or (Aidoo) were in in College Station. Some of that was foul trouble with (Knecht). Some of that, I think Coach (Barnes) went small in the second half and it became a track meet for us.  I don’t know, I can’t remember to be honest, if they played together.”

How much the two-big lineup makes Tennessee a different basketball team

“Well, Coach (Barnes) can answer better than I would. I just, the eight guys that are playing, if you play (Awaka) and (Aidoo) together, it probably gives you more maneuverability. It’s not like (Josiah-Jordan James) can’t play on the perimeter. I mean, he is a perimeter player. He’s just strong enough and tough enough to guard whatever forward the opponent would have. But I also think that (Aidoo), even though he looks like he’s an at-the-rim guy, he’s really comfortable with the ball. And I know he is right-handed probably by birth, but he’s almost ambidextrous to me. He’s really good with his left and he’s also got a right shoulder, left hand comfort level as the same as left shoulder, right hand. And so I know he’s the five per se when (James) is in, but he’s just as comfortable playing the four from what I’ve studied. And I also think that (Awaka) probably has a different, and we call it phases, but their transition alignment, (Aidoo) and (Awaka) put a lot of pressure on you at the rim and if you don’t guard him or you stand behind him. They’re going to score or you’re going to foul him. And now that just gives (Zeigler) rest that he needs because (Vescovi), (Knecht), (Jordan Gainey), they’re so far in the corners that when you help up, if you help up on (Zeigler) driving, they’re shooting three. And so that’s why I think (Zeigler) is the engine, but (Aidoo) and (Awaka) put a lot of pressure on you at the rim. And both (Awaka and Aidoo) were good against us, but they were playing probably a little different in the second half at our place than they were throughout the game today.”

What was different for Tennessee in rebounding in this game, compared to the loss two weeks ago

“They got to the paint a lot more today. I think they had four middle drives in the first half, which is good for us, but they had five for the game at our place and we’re in rotation. Any team’s going to be in rotation when the ball’s in the paint, whether it’s off the pass or the bounce, and now all of a sudden you’re probably going to struggle on the glass. They had 10 offensive rebounds as did we, but their percentage is what matters. So they offensive rebounded 30% of their misses and we offensive rebounded 22% of ours. And coming into tonight, we were first in the country at 41%. It’s not good enough for us on that side.”

If Texas A&M hitting early 3-pointers baited the Aggies into taking too many threes in the game

“Well, if it is a bait, we for sure, what do country people say? Hook, line and sinker? It was a bait and we took it. I would say that that’s probably the highest number of threes that we’ve taken this year. Now some of that, some of that is because they’re an elite defense. And so some of those I wouldn’t necessarily describe as bait. It was late in the clock and we couldn’t get it to the paint off the pass or the bounce. But I do think that we probably took too many threes in our shot diet for what gives us the best chance to win.” 

“Alright, you guys make sure that I said congratulations. Has Coach (Barnes) already been in here? Tell Coach that I said congratulations for his 800th win. Wasn’t that tonight? Tell Coach I said congratulations, please.” 

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